The dark side of desire: why we should be cautious telling women with a low libido to schedule in sex.

For the last three years of my life, I’ve struggled to want sex.

Call it what you want- low sex drive, lost libido, dead bedroom– I’m it.

I’m only 31, and it began after an intense period of stress in my life where I was studying and working and dashing around to make ends meet (you can read more about me here).

My desire for sex left me gradually, silently, exiting the door stage left and then fucked off for a rather long period!

Trying to retrieve it has taken me the better part of two years, tons of books and research, many hours repairing my relationship, and a whole lifestyle shift.

During my journey I’ve learned so much about women’s health, sexuality, sensuality and biology from some amazing researchers, academics, bloggers and sex therapists.

But I’ve also experienced a lifetime’s worth of bad advice, dodgy tips and downright sexist suggestions.

The one I want to focus on in this post is scheduling in sex.


To schedule…

Most sex therapists worth their salt will recommend that, in the case of female low desire, its a good idea to schedule in sex.

One night a week, just pop it into your diary, and let nature do the rest.

Of course, for many people- this approach works and is really successful!

If you struggle to find time for sex, find it difficult to prioritize it, believe sex should just happen spontaneously, or even if you experience your sex drive as more of a “slow burn” and you kinda just gotta start doing it before you get turned on, scheduling sex is grand.

The reasoning behind this is sound.

If time is difficult or despite your best intentions sex just isn’t happening, making a set date for sex where you can put it right to the top of your “to-do list” makes total sense.

And if you know that your desire works in a more “responsive” way (read more on what this means here) scheduling in sex provides the motivation and drive for sex that you might not feel without a prompt.

If you’re interested in scheduling sex, this Huffington Post article might help you with more ideas on how to schedule sex in different ways, or this fascinating post on a woman who has scheduled in sex for the last four years and how it works for her. OR, these posts on Kinkly by Emmeline Peaches on scheduling sex, “the key to good sex isn’t spontaneity” and this one: “in defense of scheduling sex”.

In many ways, I agree with this approach of scheduling it in.

HOWEVER. And this is a very big however.

This advice needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, because in other cases, scheduling in sex only increases the problem…

Photo by Tim Mossholder on

Or not to schedule?

On a personal level, scheduling sex just didn’t work for me.

I read the advice online and because it was such a popular suggestion and I (desperate to try anything that would help) was excited to get going.

At the start of the week I thoughtfully planned out my meals, social events and activities.

I also carefully noted down the evening I thought we could have sex.

Firstly, it was a *slight* practical nightmare. My boyfriend and I have schedules that often change quite quickly, reacting to sudden plans with friends or late working hours, so in the beginning it was really tough to plan anything out.

But over a few weeks I managed to find a few nights that we’d both be in, and I was excited to pencil it in with some little doodly celebration marks and a hopeful heart.

Feeling satisfied with myself and confident that this would be my “magic bullet” and that I wasn’t broken, I put the issue to the back of my mind.

However, as the diary entry loomed closer I found myself dreading the approaching sexual date because the worries began flooding in.

What if I was ill on the night? What if I wasn’t in the right mood, couldn’t get aroused… What if I just didn’t want to?

And if I didn’t, I’d not only let myself down, but I also obviously failed at yet another technique to sort it out.

I began to rehearse the excuses in my head, desperate for a way to feel I could get out of having sex that felt valid to me.

And I felt so guilty- that I STILL wasn’t looking forwards to shagging.

It felt like I had no way out.

I was totally crushed by my own pressure to force myself to have sex on that night.

Eventually, I ended up resenting the evening, the process, and the sex itself.

Photo by Pixabay on

Why scheduling in sex isn’t for everyone

From my experiences, I began to wonder about whether this really is the best advice to give to women with a low libido, or women with responsive desire. Here’s why…

  1. Scheduling in sex is a generic response to a low sex drive, and assumes the woman does actually want/enjoy sex, there’s just a lack of time or motivation to do so. It ignores the other factors at play that might be causing a low sex drive, e.g. factors within the relationship, if the sex is hurts or makes her feel anxious or stressed. The reasons WHY her sex drive has dipped should be explored first (see this post), and whether having more sex is going to be appropriate for that situation.
  2. If you’re having shit sex, having more shit sex isn’t going to make things better. Sex might be painful, distressing, boring or just not pleasurable. Sex might hugely increase your anxiety, or be a distressing experience when you can’t stay in the room and focus. Scheduling in more bad/mediocre sex might mean she gets to the point where she HATES sex, or her partner, because she’s doing it because she “should” not because she wants to. She might get caught into a cycle of performance anxiety, where sex becomes more and more difficult each time you do it. This isn’t going to encourage her to want it any more!
  3. Scheduling sex if you don’t really want to have it is problematic because it ties in to the idea that you should be having sex within a relationship, and that your partners pleasure is more important than yours. It’s duty sex- the new version of “lie back and think of England”. In my opinion, adding sex to a to-do list when you’re dreading its approach doesn’t acknowledge the importance of women’s pleasure within desire.
  4. Having a fixed date for sex can create huge levels of stress, anxiety, and may mean you feel there is no flexibility around sex if you’re tired, ill, or just not feeling up for it. We need to give ourselves permission not to have sex, and that’s OK!
  5. If you tell your partner about your sexy date, this can also add to the pressure to be up for it (and the arguments if you decide you don’t).
  6. It also never gave me the chance to build up my own desire to initiate sex, so the problems with my lack of sex drive just continued.

The alternative

I think there’s an easy alternative that can be suggested instead of scheduling in sex itself.

Rather, schedule in time for a date night.

This removes the pressure from actual sex, and the evening becomes about the two of you spending quality time together. The pressure is off, and you can just enjoy each other’s company. This helps build intimacy, connection and friendship between you.

Vanessa Marin (one of the best sex therapists around also recommends this approach in this article).

Another suggestion is instead of scheduling in sex, why not stop sex altogether?

Sound counter intuitive? Possibly, but take a read of this post to see how helpful this can be to increase desire. Instead of dread, this approach encourages you to build desire and actually look forwards to having a shag 🙂

Finally, the golden rule with sex should ALWAYS be quality over quantity. 

We should be aiming for the sex to be better, as if it becomes about pleasure we’ll likely begin to want it more.

So, what do you think about scheduling sex- has it worked for you? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.







  1. Great post – we schedule date nights that usually lead to sexual activity but as a couple we actually do not have actual sexual intercourse very often – we do other stuff a lot – I wonder if that helps me not worry that i will be in the mood etc as i know sometimes it is just fine to give him a blow/hand job and not want any interaction myself? Also – he has Lyme disease so occasionally it will jut be him tending to my needs. The thing is every couple has their own normal, and they are prob all different 😉
    PS. quality over quantity gets a thumbs up from me

    1. Thats really interesting May, and I imagine the lack of pressure for there to always be a particular format to the sex you’re having means you can be more creative and free. Definitely agree about each having their own normal!

  2. As the spouse of a wonderful woman who is still coming to terms with the discrepancy between her own sexuality and what she feels is expected of her, I wish I had read something like this many years ago. We’ve had great sex, at times, and we’ve had times when our marital sex life was disappointing at best. I am deeply grateful for the combination of sheer luck and having an awesome partner that allowed us to salvage a happy marriage that is difficult to explain to people, from a relationship that was increasingly frustrating. The dynamic you describe here, of “duty sex” and disappointment, was central to that frustration, and taking sex off the table indefinitely (followed some time later by deciding I could have sex with others, if I need that to be happy) was the key to focusing on what is great about our relationship instead of on what isn’t working anymore. Perhaps we will someday resume having a marital sex life, but we’re finding that that really isn’t essential to having a mutually beneficial relationship.

    1. That’s so brilliant that you’ve managed to sort things between yourself and got a good balance for you both. Duty sex is so problematic! I think its natural to go in cycles, and focussing on what’s going great is such a wonderful place to begin from 🙂

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